Reservist Awarded The Airman's Medal For Off-Duty Heroism
(December 17, 2010)
Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla presents the Airman's Medal to Lt. Col Richard L. Lowe at a ceremony Dec. 10, 2010, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Colonel Lowe distinguished himself by heroism involving voluntary risk of life following the crash of Continental Airlines Flight 1404 Dec. 20, 2008, at Denver International Airport. General Padilla is the 10th Air Force commander at Air Force Reserve Command Joint Reserve Base at Fort Worth, Texas. Colonel Lowe is a 340th Reserve Flight instructor. (U.S. Air Force photo/Don Lindsey
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (12/14/2010 -
An Air Force reservist pulled injured
and panicking passengers from a smoking airliner
that crashed upon takeoff December 2008. For his
heroic actions, the 10th Air Force commander
presented this Airman with an Airman's Medal
here Dec. 10.
The military decoration is awarded for "heroism
not involving actual conflict with an armed
enemy." It is the highest non-combat-related
award in the Air Force.
While a passenger on Continental Airlines Flight
1404, Lt. Col. Richard Lowe, a 340th Reserve
Flight instructor, helped successfully evacuate
the passengers and crew of the flight after the
plane skidded off a runway while taking off from
Denver International Airport.
"It was dark, and I was reading," he said. "Then
I felt something. It was like an instantaneous
gust of wind. I felt the airplane skidding. It
was going off the runway; I thought the wind was
Colonel Lowe said the plane caught some air and
"The ride kept getting more and more violent,"
The plane stopped moving after the last impact
with ground. Glancing around quickly, the
colonel looked out
|the window and saw flames
everywhere. A wing was burning. The smell of fuel
permeated the cabin.
Pandemonium took over some, but he stayed calm.|
"Then there was the panic of the people trying to get out of
the plane," Colonel Lowe added, "but the flight attendants
did a heroic job of calmly and selflessly directing the
Colonel Lowe made several trips in and out of the wreckage
to ensure everyone was safely out of the plane.
Maj. Gen. Frank Padilla told the audience that Colonel Lowe
was an ordinary guy, doing an extraordinary deed.
The men and women of the Reserves "don't just settle for
just enough, they are the best of the best," he added.
"I'm humbled and honored that my peers would nominate me for
this award," Colonel Lowe said. He said he credits his
military training to "stay calm and slow down to go fast"
for helping him save his life as well as others onboard.
The colonel said he could feel the sand running out of the
hour glass and the hair stand up on the back of his neck on
his last trip into the aircraft. It was only a few seconds
after he exited for the final time that there was an
"I don't think I did anything that anyone else wouldn't have
done," he said.
Colonel Lowe also received a presidential citation from the
Air Line Pilots Association for his actions on that day.
Airman Alexis Siekert and Sean Bowlin
Air Force News
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